Magnesium is a wonderful supplement for many types of brain and body functions. Some types of magnesium work better than others for certain types of issues, but it isn’t just the type of magnesium that is important, it’s also absorption that’s important. In this post I will explain why magnesium absorption is important and provide some tips on the best magnesium supplement absorption, including which magnesium types absorb best and what to look for when shopping for best absorption.
Why is the absorption level of magnesium important?
In an earlier post I talked about the various types of magnesium. A few examples include magnesium citrate, chloride, glycinate, aspartate, sulfate and oxide. Not all magnesium absorb effectively. Typically, if the form can be dissolved it can be well absorbed. Absorption in the gut is important for the body to benefit. According to the National Institute of Health, studies have found that magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride absorb well. While other medical research indicates that glycinate and malate are also good for absorption.
According to Daniel J. Crisafi, NDA, MH, Phd these are some of the best absorption rates:
- Magnesium citrate: 90%
- Magnesium glycinate: 80%
- Magnesium malate: 70%
While absorption rates are debatable, it’s best to start with one that’s easily dissolved like citrate and see how your body tolerates it and if you notice an improvement after at least four weeks of supplementation if well tolerated. If you are not tolerating citrate well, I suggest moving to glycinate which may have lower absorption but is very well tolerated.
What does ‘bioavailability’ mean and why is it important?
A common term used around the absorption level of a vitamin or mineral is bioavailability. Bioavailability is the amount of the supplement that is absorbed in the gut and is made available for cellular and tissue activity. In terms of magnesium supplementation bioavailability is determined by several factors. One of the most important for magnesium is solubility. Other factors the affect bioavailability include the quality and how the supplement was manufactured. How it was manufactured can impact how long it takes to dissolve and how much of it is dissolved. If it was manufactured in a way that doesn’t lend it to dissolve quickly, your body is likely not absorbing it properly.
One tip I learned years ago when I was researching effectiveness of vitamins and minerals was the dissolve test. If you are unsure if your supplement is good at dissolving, try this test. Fill a small glass with white or apple cider vinegar. Put your supplement into the glass and watch to see if the supplement dissolves and how long it takes to dissolve. Vinegar mimics the intestinal juices and will give you an indication if your supplement will break down in your body to make itself available for absorption. If it doesn’t dissolve completely in 30 minutes, it’s likely your supplement is passing through you and does not have a high degree of absorption or bioavailability.
One other factor that impacts absorption is your own body’s need for magnesium. The body knows how much magnesium it should keep, and the kidneys if working properly do the rest of the work to remove excess from the body, keeping only what is needed.
What are other causes of low absorption and which types of magnesium do now absorb well?
While it’s important to know which types of magnesium absorb well, it’s also important to understand which do not. Magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate have poor absorption rates. Magnesium oxide has only a 4% absorption rate while sulfate is slightly lower.
Even if you get the right type of magnesium with high bioavailability there are some reasons why our bodies might not absorb the nutrients effectively. Among other things our gut has to be working right to absorb any vitamin or nutrient. If you have a history of a gastrointestinal disease such as IBS or Crohn’s disease you need to check with our physician if you will be able to metabolize the supplement and get advice on the best path to increase your magnesium intake.
Other impacts on magnesium absorption include a history of alcoholism, diabetes, and use of diuretics. The later two cause increased excretion of urine which may mean larger amounts of magnesium are removed in body processes than others. For example if you are on blood pressure medicine with a diuretic, the diuretic could be depleting your body of magnesium or at least preventing it from optimal absorption. A history of alcoholism could mean kidney or liver disease which would also impact nutrient absorption making the person expose to poor magnesium levels.
Co-factors, co-factors, co-factors – don’t supplement magnesium without these, here’s why….
Magnesium is one of those minerals that is best absorbed when you add in co-factors. If you don’t you may not be getting the optimal absorption. Yes, you read that right, the absorption level of magnesium also depends on ensuring you are supplementing with co-factor supplements as magnesium doesn’t always work well on its own.
Ensure you are at least taking a multi-vitamin or mineral with the following elements will ensure you are optimizing your magnesium supplementation:
- Vitamin B6 – helps absorb magnesium
- Vitamin D – increases absorption of magnesium
- Potassium – balances magnesium both working together to regulate electrolytes
Top recommendation for best absorption and tolerance?
While each person is different, I recommend you start out with magnesium citrate and move to glycinate if citrate is not well tolerated. A few of my favorites below:
I was first introduced to magnesium citrate through Natural Calm. I still like to use Natural Calm once in while at nighttime, but have replaced the Natural Calm regimen with a ZMA. What is a ZMA you ask? ZMA is mineral supplement that combines zinc, magnesium, and B6. While magnesium is the great metabolism mineral responsible for many bodily functions, B6 helps with increased energy and zinc supports immune system and provides muscle support.
While the ZMA combination is great for athletes for muscle recovery and restoration by improving overall sleep, I find it to be what I need for optimal brain and body recovery from the stress of balancing a family and demanding career. I take Neurobalance (ZMA) at night, it has high bioavailability and supports overall cognitive function. It uses magnesium citrate together with zinc picolinate and B6.
In the morning I take Triple Calm Magnesium which combines Taurate (cardiovascular support), Glycinate (relaxation and calmness), and Malate (muscle and nerve function) for an overall calm and balanced day.
I split the doses and never take more than the daily recommended supplementation for magnesium for women which is around 400 mg. This combination gives me the right balance I need for the day to have energy but to feel relaxed and focusd. All the fuzziness and stress I used to have before I supplemented with magnesium has melted away. I definitely feel the difference when I don’t supplement. If you are having any level of stress or anxiety throughout your day, including muscle tension, headaches or overall lack of focus and concentration, I highly recommend both specific supplements noted above.
Before you try any combination of supplements, as always consult your physician first to ensure this could be right for you, and remember to not oversupplement beyond recommended daily allowance recommendations.